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Friday, January 23, 2009

Home Delivery

I lived in New York City for 16 years of my life so I know all about home delivery, especially of the food ilk. On my very first evening in my very first apartment, alone and 21, I was petrified, stupefied and hungry. I took the elevator to the lobby of my apartment to talk to the one person who looked approachable, my doorman (look for more about doormen in a later post!) "Where is a good place to get something to eat around here?" I asked. He pulled out a large manila envelope from under the front desk and handed it to me. "You had a long, busy day," he said. "Why don't you order something in?" Those words and that stack of menus changed my life forever. My understanding of home delivery had been limited to the occasional late-night, oops forgot to eat, oops drank too much beer, oops can't remember who I made out with, Domino's Pizza in college. But this, this was different. Grilled Cheese and Tomato? Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, burgers, blintzes, bagels, eggs at 10:00pm? It was a dream come true for a tired working girl . . . which is why I gained 10 lbs. in my first six months in New York. Big City, Big Butt!
The stretch of beach in front of our house in N'gaparou, Senegal, offers an all together healthier daily delivery option. At about 9:00am, Aisha and Sarah stroll down to our house, always beautifully dressed and smiling, carrying bright, plastic buckets filled with fresh fruits and vegetables on their heads.  I usually don't see their approach, but hear them call to me in a lovely lilting duet "Ellen, Na nga def?" It's my favorite moment in the day, one that has become a familiar ritual, to see them smiling, exchange greetings and news (Aisha's cousin got married last week), and choose what strikes me on that particular day. They almost always have perfectly ripe pineapple, the reddest grapefruit and gigantic melons, along with small gold potatoes, non-waxed cucumbers, petite and delicate onions. They are the most expensive "marchands" because they have the freshest produce. However, I hand them the equivalent of only about $8 and watch them gracefully bend their lower bodies in order to set the baskets back on their heads. With a promise to see me tomorrow, god willing, with straight backs and long floor-length skirts, they perform a dance, as their arms reach up to balance their wares, and then, always to my disbelief, they remove their hands and walk down the stairs, swinging their arms, with nary a worry on their strong, slim shoulders.
I wonder what Ousmann, the fisherman, will bring me today?



  1. Ellen, loved your description of living in Senegal. I'm looking forward to more entries.

  2. Hi Ellen
    I just love your writing! It was so good to see you today thanks to Skype!
    Kisses to everyone,